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The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story presentation ended the opening day of Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016, giving us a new peek into the characters and story of the upcoming Star Wars standalone film.

Hosted by Gwendoline Christie, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story presentation featured a panel of guess that included: Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, director Gareth Edwards, Lucasfilm Story Group head of story Kiri Hart, Executive Producer John Knoll, and the entire cast: Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, and Forest Whitaker.

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Kennedy explained that the standalone movies will explore different people and different places in different ways than the Skywalker saga films. As such, much has been rumored about Rogue One’s tone, and how different it will look and feel from the original trilogy films. Hart said there are story elements that will feel really connected and familiar to Star Wars fans, even though Edwards has brought a vision to the story that is really “fresh.” The style of the movie was heavily influenced by the handheld cinematography of Greig Fraser. Kennedy says that it will be an “incredibly immersive” experience compared to previous Star Wars films.

We’ve known that the idea for Rogue One came from ILM/Lucasfilm vet John Knoll, but what we didn’t know is that the idea came about 13 years ago while they were shooting Episode III in Sydney. George Lucas was developing a new television series, and Knoll came up with a Mission:Impossible-inspired spy about the mission to steal the Death Star plans. He dropped the idea and still had it in his pocket when it was revealed that Lucasfilm was going to make standalone stories. He pitched it to friends at work and they liked it enough that it was suggested that he meet with Kennedy and Hart to pitch the idea as a movie.

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Rogue One Concept Art & Behind the Scenes

They showed the very first bit of concept art created for Rogue One, showing the team of very different people, creatures, and droids who have come together to accomplish the biggest heist in the history of the galaxy.

Edwards’ first job in television was filmed around the corner from the Star Wars Celebration Europe stage, and he would often be in the Canary Wharf tube station thinking to himself that if he ever filmed a sci-fi film, he would use it for a location. While shooting Rogue One, the tube station was redressed to look like the Star Wars universe and they filmed the scene in just a few hours overnight.

New Rogue One Character Details

Jones said the major difference between Jyn Erso and other Star Wars heroes is that she isn’t asking, “Who am I and where have I come from?” We know where she comes from, and she has had a very full life before we meet her in Rogue One. Jyn’s journey is about finding out what her reason is and her cause.

Tudyk plays KT-SO, an Imperial droid reprogrammed by the Rebellion. He performed the role on set using motion capture. We were shown a small clip of the character in action and it looks like he’ll add some much-needed comedy to this war story. The Rebels have done a data wipe on the droid so he’s not all there. He can say things that are sometimes too honest or unsettling. “It’s like old people,” said Tudyk. (You can read more in-depth about this character here.)

Ahmed’s Bodhi is wearing an Imperial patch in some of the released photos. He’s a pilot who works for the Empire to earn a living and doesn’t necessarily agree with what his employers do. He hails from an occupied planet, and the actions of the Empire and the stuff he’s forced to get involved with over there make him question his career.

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One of the new locations we’ll see in Rogue One is the planet Jedha. It is the mecca of the Star Wars universe, where people go on pilgrimages. But at this point in time it’s occupied by the Empire. It’s here that we meet Donnie Yen’s Chirrup Îmwe and Jiang Wen’s Baze Malbus. Chirrup is a blind warrior who can feel with his heart. He isn’t a Jedi, but he believes in the Force. He’s the thinker of this pair. Baze is the doer, and he has a huge gun.

Whitaker plays Saw Gerrera, a guerrilla rebel fighter who has been battling for years against the occupation. He is leading his group by any means necessary. The character was originally revealed as an animated character during the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. Whitaker revealed he watched the episodes in preparation for the film.

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Mikkelsen plays Galen Erso, Jyn’s father who is a “person of interest.” He was a scientist who invented something so beautiful that it might change the universe. We assume this is the technology that is used in the Death Star, confirming rumors that Galen will be playing a Robert Oppenheimer type who regrets his creation.

Mendelsohn plays Director Orson Krennic, who is a different type of Imperial villain — “an Australian kind,” explained Mendelsohn. “We do villainy very well. He is smarter, I think, than most of his predecessors. He’s more inventive.” He added, jokingly, “He’s perhaps a little sexier than some of them, not quite as sexy as some of the others.”

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Rogue One Footage Recap

At the end of the Rogue One presentation, we saw an exclusive teaser trailer that was only shown to those in attendance at Star Wars Celebration Europe. It opened with a young girl running from an Imperial ship. Cut to an older Jyn Erso running on a beach during a war scene. It’s really hard to recall the montage of shots that followed, but many of them might be familiar as they looked like finished shots of some of the sequences glimpsed in the behind-the-scenes package.

Jyn says, “There isn’t much time. Every day we grow weaker and weaker as they grow stronger. This is time, we can make a real difference.” We saw some space shots, giving us a hint that there might be more than land battles in this film, as well as a transforming ship landing, and a lizard commando guy yelling back to his troops. The teaser ended a shot of a black reflective floor and Darth Vader walking towards the camera. We couldn’t really see him as it was only a reflection, and he didn’t say anything, we just heard his signature breathing. It was a rather badass ending to a fun teaser. I wish Lucasfilm put this online but they probably decided not to as some of the effects shots are not finished.

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Other details we learned during the panel:

George Lucas visited the set of Rogue One, as you can see above.

As has been previously confirmed, Darth Vader will appear in this film. They finished filming in December, and recorded an ADR voice over recording session with James Earl Jones in New York.

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Final Thoughts

The movie looks really badass, and the characters are compelling and mysterious. But I’m not finding myself as interested in them as I was in Rey and Finn in the early Force Awakens roll-out. I’m probably most excited about the look and feel of Rogue One being so drastically different from any of the other Star Wars movies. What I saw looked beautiful yet chaotic, frantic yet almost perfectly composed. The droids and creatures in this film have the potential to be screen stealers.

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